Rep. Steny Hoyer: House support for assault weapons ban remains unclear

January 15, 2013

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) did little Tuesday to refute suggestions that there isn't enough support in the House to ban high-capacity assault weapons.

Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) suggested in a weekend interview that there is little chance of passing an assault weapons ban in the Senate and that he is doubtful it could ever pass the House.

"Let's be realistic," Reid told PBS' "Nevada Week in Review." "In the Senate, we're going to do what we think can get through the House, and I'm not going to go through a bunch of these gyrations just to say we've done something. If we're really legislators, the purpose of it is to pass legislation."

Hoyer told reporters at his weekly meeting with reporters that "I don’t have an assessment right now, I think that’s been the case based on past history."

The Democratic whip suggested that it would help in any attempt to address gun control in the coming weeks to clearly remind lawful gun owners that they have nothing to worry about.

"Nobody in the Congress that I know of – maybe there are some – wants to take guns away from individuals," Hoyer said, adding later that the guns that cause concern are those "that are specifically designed for war-like settings to kill a lot of people very quickly, and I think we ought to be able to deal with that. And we ought to be able to deal with people who get access to guns."

President Obama plans to unveil a sweeping set of gun-control proposals at midday Wednesday, including a ban on assault weapons, universal background checks and limits on the number of bullets magazines can hold. The plans are also expected to include up to 19 executive actions that the Obama administration can take on its own to try to limit gun violence. Hoyer said he fully supports such moves.

"I think the president, to the extent that he has executive powers to deal with this issue to try to make American safer, both has a responsibility and an intent to do so," Hoyer said. He added later, "As the executive of our nation, who pledged to keep Americans safe not only abroad but here, as well, I think he would be well-advised to take such action that he thinks is appropriate."

Hoyer also said he believes Congress can move quickly on gun control while also tackling contentious fiscal policy concerns, yet he conceded: "I say that even in light of the fact that we’ve just ended the least productive Congress in which I’ve served. "

On the efforts to reduce gun violence, he said: "The president wants to move this forward quickly, I agree with him on that, I think the American people share that view that we do whatever we can to protect not only children but our law enforcement officials and others and the public from the results of either people who are mentally deranged having guns or having guns that have, really, the sole purpose of killing a lot of people quickly."

Ed O’Keefe is a congressional reporter with The Washington Post and covered the 2008 and 2012 presidential and congressional elections.
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